Finding My Niche

One year. It has been exactly one year since Shimmering Twig emerged as a concrete idea in my life. And while I have not found a consistent rhythm or developed a clear path where this blog would go, I have had many opportunities to explore different options, from writing about life decisions, simple and effective approaches to a gluten free lifestyle (which many will tell you, I was HORRIBLE about until my first pregnancy). Each post, each thought, each blurb of my life has been a learning curve.

I love to read, and I love to write. But finding that rhythm, that “niche” as they call it in the blogging world, has been difficult for me. I think this is mainly because I LOVE to dabble in a little bit of everything. Seriously, just ask my husband because it drives him crazy. During this initial year with this blog I took one heck of a crash course in blogging from attracting an audience, to social media, to Pinterest (and frankly Pinterest is still a mysterious monster that is too overwhelming for me to tackle, and according to all of the blogging groups, the most crucial piece), and  ultimately to finding some consistency.

My blog has been far from consistent, but somewhere in the last 4 months of teaching hyper-drive that I seem to be stuck in, the blog took a back burner, simmering in the furthest corners of my mind. Recently I have been debating what to do about that subscription that was about to expire… Do I continue in this path of random dabbling in a little of this and that… do I let it go as a lost project never completely finished… or does it just stay there… simmering, waiting. But what am I waiting for?

And then the idea started to blossom, as most ideas do. They start as a small seedling, the kind you are afraid to touch, to share, for fear of crushing it from the get go. Gradually though, they form into something more solid, more secure, and you start to share them, to get feedback, to bounce those ideas off the people that matter most in your life. For me, that is my husband, he is my biggest critic, and ultimate deal sealer or breaker.

It is no surprise to anyone that I love to bake. I quit ordering cakes for my family several years back and began to dive into the art of refining gluten free baking. I love the science behind it, the creativity and the challenge it brings. I love that I have a crazy supportive family who loves to sample what I make, but more importantly, the family who will be honest, the ones who look for my gluten free treats to taste “different.” Success is when those family members say, “I can’t even tell a difference, your cake was good.” Silently your inner being does a little happy dance.

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My husband has always been my biggest gluten free supporter. Seriously, I cannot even begin to stress to you the silent connection he has to it, so much to the point that years ago if I was about to cheat and eat something I wasn’t allowed, it was as if an inner alarm bell would go off and he would just “happen” to call me at that exact moment asking me what I was doing. Ugh. But I digress.

So my idea took hold, it became a brainstorm web, which turned into notes, which lead to research, which lead to details. Those details became concrete, and then I took some test orders. Those test orders turned out successful and lead to more consistent orders, which then lead to the possibility that I might be able to actually DO THIS. And just like that, an idea turned into my niche.

And so it is with great PRIDE, great fear, and great excitement that I share with you, Shimmering Twigs newest face:

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Shimmering Twig Treats

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After my daughter’s 4th birthday party, the seed was planted and I began to entertain the possibility of baking for others, specifically those who wanted gluten free baked good that tasted delicious but were also pretty and customized.

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My youngest is minion OBSESSED, therefore, is was only appropriate to have a minion-themed party for her this past fall, which she went crazy over!

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And so, with my little celiac child’s approval, I am ready to tackle this new adventure! More information is coming soon, but if you are interested, please do not hesitate to reach out.

It feels so good to be back!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

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Baked S’Mores | Gluten Free

This is another one of those recipes that has become a seasonal classic. It’s also a recipe that literally blew up Pinterest about 4 years ago. The combination of Graham Cracker “Blondie”, Marshmallow Creme, and Chocolate perfectly capture that freshly roasted S’mores taste. I have had to make several adaptations to the original recipe I found years ago, in order to fine tune the gluten free version. But trust me, the layering, and spreading of oey-gooey goodness, will definitely keep you coming back to this dish for more. I prefer them about 5 minutes after coming out of the oven, while my Mother-in-law likes to chill hers in the oven so they have a little crunch to them. Either way, it’s a WIN-WIN

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To begin, start by creaming your butter and sugar, next adding in your egg and vanilla.

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With Gluten free, the stiffer the dough, the easier it is to work with. I do not let my butter get to room temperature, rather use my stand mixer to make it nice and fluffy, but still stiff, like the picture above. (This is before the eggs and vanilla were added)

Then I add in my flour. Now I LOVE being able to store my flour in a large rubber sealed container like this, because for some reason it makes me feel so NORMAL. I grew up in a house where my Mom had matching flour and sugar containers, which were eventually replaced with three hundred different individual flour containers, because when we first began this Gluten Free journey 15 years ago, every recipe required a slightly different concoction of flours to get a mediocre attempt at “normal” textures. I think this is the largest selling point with the Pamela’s Artisan Blend Flour, that it replaces that “Science Experiment feel” that baking gluten free used to have. It makes life simple, and baking FUN again. It has also dramatically increased my organizational space in my baking supply cabinets.

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So this is also one of the “stress-reliever” recipes. You know, the ones where you get to beat something to a pulp? Take Pamela’s Gluten Free Graham Crackers for example, place one container’s worth in a zip lock bag, and go to town on those bad boys until they are a fine powder.

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I recently switched to these crackers just by coincidence and definitely have found my new favorite. It shouldn’t surprise me since I love the flour so much as well. These crackers have a good taste to actually make REAL S’mores with, and pass my gluten free 21 month-old picky eater test.

I saved one set of squares to make her a real S’more for dinner that night. I definitely should have photographed our two crazies eating their S’mores. So funny!

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Once your crackers are ready, add in your graham cracker crumbs and flour and prepare for the infamous “mushroom cloud” that seems to puff out of the mixer every time you turn it on with gluten free flour! (I have to admit, the Pamela’s mushroom cloud is minimal as compared to some other super fine flours out there.)

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Oh boy… look at that dough! That is how stiff you want this dough, to make it pliable when layering your bars. The recipe I am providing you gives a little more dough than you really need for a 9 x 13 inch pan; however, who doesn’t love a little left over snacky-snacky dough?!

Take just under half the dough and place it in a greased 9 x 13 inch baking dish. begin working the dough out slowly with your finger tips pressing it evenly into the bottom of the pan.

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Once you’ve completed that, place THREE of the “GIANT” sized Hershey Bars in the pan. I stress the “GIANT” because I swear there are like 3 different sized humongous Hershey bars out there. I have come home from the store with what I thought to be the correct size, only to find I was incredibly short on chocolate. Now THAT is annoying.

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Next take a LARGE container of Marshmallow fluff and spread it around on the chocolate as evenly as possible, because in all reality, you end up with about half of it stuck to you, your spatula, and perhaps even your hair. Such a mess.. but so good… I was too busy licking the marshmallow fluff off my spatula to even remember to take a picture of that layer.

The final layer involves a little skill, and patience. Again, it truly is a miracle I can manage to make these correctly! Start off as if you are rolling out a crust from my Gluten Free Stromboli post and line your counter with a sheet of wax paper that is larger than your pan. Flop the remaining dough down on to the wax paper and begin to work the dough into a rectangle that is LARGER than the pan itself. You will see why in a moment.

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Once you have this massive pancake of a blondie rolled out, carefully flip the wax paper on to your 9 x 13 baking pan. If your aim is as good as mine, you’ll be glad to have the excess dough to compensate for your misjudged layer.

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Carefully peel back your wax paper and using a paring knife, trim away the edges of the dough. You will have a significant amount left over, but its so delicious that I’m sure you’ll find something to do with it…!

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Once it’s all trimmed up you are ready to bake! Toss these in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and before you know it you’ll have an ooey gooey treat waiting for you!

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I let mine set up over night before our picnic to help the mess factor while serving these in the hot weather. I have included my adapted gluten free recipe below; however, the only major change is the flour conversion. You should have no trouble making this recipe with any typical flour.

Cheers!

  • Whitney

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Gluten Free S'Mores Bars

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

-1 cup salted butter -1/2 cup brown sugar -1 cups sugar -2 large eggs -2 tsp vanilla -2 2/3 cups Pamela’s Artisan Blend Flour -1 1/2 cups crushed Pamela’s Graham Crackers -2 tsp baking powder -1/2 tsp salt -3 GIANT sized Hershey Bars -1 Large container marshmallow fluff

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy.
  2. Crush graham crackers. Add flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt to mixture. Mix until just combined. Batter should be stiff
  3. Separate just under half the mixture and press into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan.
  4. Line bottom layer with three GIANT Hershey bars.
  5. Spread 1 container of marshmallow fluff on to the Hershey bars.
  6. place remaining dough on a large sheet of wax paper. Roll out until thin and LARGER than the pan.
  7. Flip out on to the pan and trim excess off the sides of the pan.
  8. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or just until edges are slightly golden. Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes before cutting. Serve immediately if looking for a gooey bar. Refrigerate if you prefer a more solid bar.

Red White and Blue JELLO Squares

The summer I was pregnant with my youngest daughter, I had a weird obsession with Jell-O. Yes, I clearly had too much time on my hands as so many would say, between chasing around my one and a half year old, returning back to full time post-graduate student, and the joyful aches and pains of being six, or more, months pregnant. CLEARLY I had too much time on my hands. I began to obsess over fine-tuning the art of layering jello, like a classy 1950’s susie-homemaker. Once I discovered this incredibly simple, yet game changing tweak to the typical boxed jello found at the store, I began to make themed Jigglers for each of my niece and nephews birthday parties. If my sister-in-law read this blog, she would seriously laugh at this post, because I literally made a spider-man face and matching black and red Jigglers for her son.


Prior to that, I made pink and blue for my other niece, along with Rainbow striped for yet another niece that fall. When my daughter’s second birthday rolled around with her super sweet Snow-Bunny theme mentioned in Winter Birthday Blues Brightened, I tried using the Royal Brand jello in the “Frozen” themed colors available at the time. I particularly liked this layered jello, because it had a CLEAR, which was super icy and cool look.

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The other really cool trick I also learned during this summer of layering Jello obsession, was how to make the perfect gelatin white layer, thanks to Recipe Girl, I was able to take her basic formula and expand on it, creating variations to match every party theme possible.

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So today, I am sharing with you her layered Red, White, and Blue Jello, which I absolutely love! It’s so festive and simple to make, and such a crowd pleaser! Once you try this version, you’ll never go back to regular “Jigglers.”

The magic ingredient to this amazing consistency is “Knox” gelatin, which I discovered about 5 years ago while planning for our wedding. I wanted these beautiful jello shots in replace of the schnapps during the bridal dance, and found this Jelly Shot Test Kitchen book, thanks to Pinterest, way back in it’s primal stage. This book was full of beautiful jello cocktails, that also happened to be delicious.

I believe a group of girls came over the Thursday night before my wedding and all sat around while I mixed up batch after batch of light purple and sea foam green tinted concoctions. Just as I was about to finish the last batch, and my friend Kali will vouch for this, I turned around with the final pan in my hand ready for the fridge, but turning just a little too sharply, SHOWERING MY ENTIRE KITCHEN  in Jello goo. What a nightmare that was to clean up. To her ever lasting credit, Kali was the only one who got down to help me scrub up the hot-mess my kitchen had just become. (That was just the beginning of a weekend full catastrophes, but another story for another day)

Returning back to this very simple jello, For ever two boxes of 3 ounce JellO brand, or alternate brand flavored gelatin mix, you would need to add one pouch of Knox gelatin as well.

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Combine those pouches in a glass bowl and add two cups of boiling water to the powder. Pour this layer into a greased 9 x 13 glass dish.

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Now, the other thing I really like about making jello, is my Pyrex Glass Dish with Carrying Case and while I’ve linked you to a newer version, the one I have is a special hand-me-down.

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This specific dish was my great aunt’s and when she passed, my Mom had it for a few years. Once my husband and I got our first home, my Mom gave it to me. I love that every time I open the case, I see her handwriting, neat, and organized on the label. *Disclaimer, this is no longer a valid address or phone number (pre-9/11).*

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My aunt would always bring a cold “salad” for holiday meals, typically consisting of a mousey, gelatin dessert. As a kid, I never questioned an adult giving me dessert as salad, because who would?! The lemon one was my favorite, perhaps I’ll share that with you down the road.

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On a more practical note, I still love the warm core and cool core options for traveling during picnic season. I use the cool one any time I take a gelatin dessert to an event and it works great!

After completing your first layer of red, place in the fridge for at LEAST 30 minutes. It’s super important that you wait the appropriate time between layers or they mix together and you lose that pretty, smooth layered look.

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Once the red layer has been placed in the fridge, begin working on the white layer, starting by emptying a can of sweetened condensed milk into a bowl. Add one cup of boiling water. In a separate bowl sprinkle two pouches of gelatin over 1/2 cup ICE COLD water, letting stand for 5 minutes. Then add the other 1/2 cup of boiling water to dissolve the gelatin, before adding to the milk mixture.

*When I made this for our picnic this year, I made a mistake and placed a cup of ice cold water in a bowl, sprinkling my two pouches over this, instead of the original instructions. I simply let it stand a minute or two, and then mixed into the hot milk mixture. The gelatin dissolved just fine, luckily!

Remove the chilled red layer is solid, waiting until your white creamy layer is room temperature. I have made the mistake of pouring hot mixture on to the solidified gelatin, ultimately turning my white layer pink.

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Pour in your white mixture and let chill at least thirty minutes.

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Once it’s back in the fridge, repeat the directions from the red layer, with blue gelatin and Knox.

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I usually have to do some strategic balancing act in our fridge, since we are usually having this for a picnic, and our fridge is slightly un level, which can leave your layers looking something like that crafty 1990’s sand art in a bottle, before accidentally shaking it up on the way home. I swear I could never get enough sand in those darn things to keep them set…

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Again, when adding your final layer, be sure to not rush and pour in your gelatin before gets to room temperature. Patience is key, which reinforces the fact that it truly is a miracle that I am ever capable of completing this dish.


Once all is said and done, you have a splendid looking and deliciously tasting teeny work of art! Try out some cookie cutters for fun shapes!

Click HERE for original recipe.

Happy Picnic Season 🙂

Cheers!

  • Whitney

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GLUTEN FREE | Knock off Ice Cream Cake

As promised, I must deliver on this ridiculously simple and amazingly delicious gluten free version of, you guessed it, Dairy Queen’s infamous Ice Cream Cakes. I made this in 2016 for Mother’s Day, as mentioned in my post 10 Tips for Hosting the Perfect Mother’s Day Brunch, and chose this because it’s a dessert that must be made the night before, leaving more free time the day of. This weekend kick starts picnic season, and surprising everyone at your picnic with this cool and pretty dessert, would definitely wow a crowd.

This dessert went over so well with my in-laws and parents on Mother’s Day last year, that I believe they had all wished I would repeat for Father’s Day. I seriously regretted not repeating the recipe this year for Mother’s Day. But lucky for you gluten-free fanatics, my girls and I whipped one together just for fun this week!

Now, I was recreating this from memory, and quickly ran to the store grabbing the essentials. There are two major differences between the one I photographed, and the one I made last year. The first major difference is the one in the photographs only has one half gallon of vanilla ice cream; whereas the exact Dairy Queen Replica cake requires one full gallon of vanilla ice cream. The second difference is the quantity of whipped topping used to “ice” your cake. So be prepared for the one following the recipe below to be a bit taller than the one picture here.

To make this cake you will need a spring form pan, preferably a 9-inch. I believe mine was a 10-inch, which made a wider and flatter cake. (but just as delicious!)

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You will need to line the bottom and sides with wax paper. Remove the bottom piece of your pan and trace it on to a piece of waxed paper.

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Next line the edges of your pan with waxed paper. Tape it together if you are going for a cake that’s taller than the sides of your pan.

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I like to make this after getting home from the grocery store. Ice cream seems to naturally soften while shopping, loading, and unloading groceries. By the time everything is put away the ice cream is the perfect consistency to spread evenly.

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If you have a half gallon of chocolate, you will need a full gallon of vanilla. Begin by evenly spreading the chocolate in the bottom of the pan. Now, this is not an ad for ice cream brands, but if I’m being totally honest, Great Value brand ice cream has to be my favorite carton ice cream on the market right now. It’s so rich!

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Next, take a container of gluten free chocolate cookies with vanilla filling (aka, Gluten Free Oreo alternatives) and let out all that aggression from the week with a few good swift whacks of a rolling pin.

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Crumbling these Oreos evenly over your chocolate ice cream will create that delicious crunchy mystery layer hidden inside the Dairy Queen cakes. Place in the freezer at least 30 minutes.

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Next, soften two jars of hot fudge just until pliable. Drop the fudge on to the semi-frozen layer of ice-cream and cookie crumbs, and gently spread until evenly coated. If you are quick handed go ahead and spread the softened vanilla ice cream on to the fudge. If you are not comfortable with this, place the cake back in the freezer an additional 30 minutes until the fudge solidifies again.

This is where my pictures are not a proper replica of the recipe provided below. I only used a half gallon, but strongly recommend using a full gallon to create your cake.

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Place back into the freezer for a solid 30 minutes to an hour. Once the cake is nice a solid, remove spring-form sides and wax lining.

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Don’t worry if your cake isn’t perfectly smooth or even. A swift hand and lovely thick whipped topping “icing” will smooth out all of those bumps and cracks. You literally just open a package of cool whip and begin to “ice your cake, starting by evening out the top of your ice cream.

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Once you have a nice even layer of cool whip on the cake, place the cake back in to the freezer for at least two hours or overnight. If you want to get really fancy, consider this your “Crumb layer, and use a second container of cool whip at room temperature to put a smoother layer over the entire thing, even adding a little piping on the edge of the cake to get that true “DQ” feel.

Remove the cake from the freezer just before serving and top with sprinkles, pipe on some decorative cool whip or take my approach and line that bad boy with more cookies! Chop your gluten free cookies in half and gently press them into the frozen dessert.

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Ok, some little fingers found their way into this pile of cookies before ever decorating the final product. And trust me, I got one official stamp of approval on the end product from a 3 year old semi-pro dessert sampler.

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And with a few simple steps, zero cooking, a little free time, and a whole lotta ice cream carton licking, you can FINALLY have a gluten-free ice cream cake that will most certainly”Take the cake” to any store-bought ice cream cake around. Happy Summer!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

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Gluten Free DQ Knock Off Ice Cream Cake

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1/2 gallon chocolate ice cream
  • 1 gallon vanilla ice cream
  • 1 jar hot fudge
  • 1 container gluten free chocolate cookies with vanilla cream (plus additional for topping)
  • 2 8 oz containers Cool Whip
  • OPTIONAL
  • sprinkles, cherries, additional cookies to decorate

Directions

  1. Line a 9-inch spring form pan with wax paper. Spread softened half gallon of chocolate ice cream in bottom of pan.
  2. Crush chocolate cookies and sprinkle over ice cream. Drizzle hot fudge sauce (slightly warm) over cookies. Place in freezer 30 minutes or until solid.
  3. Spread softened gallon of vanilla ice cream over top. Free again until firm.(30 minutes to 1 hour)
  4. Remove from freezer. Ice with cool whip. Decorate with optional toppings, return to freezer at least 2 hours or over night. Serve immediately after pulling from freezer.

Rainy Day Activities for the Littles (and biggies) in your Life

So we have just entered into the second week of terrible weather in Western Pennsylvania with temperatures bouncing between the thirties and fifties, drizzly rain to torrential down pours, and just an overall lingering “blah” feel in the air. If you have toddlers in your life, particularly ones who got just a taste of those few warm, sunny, and beautiful days in April, then you know how frustrating it is to go from running in the yard, to being cooped up inside. The last thing I want is to drag out this cabin fever any longer that necessary.

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I’ve really been scouring the internet recently to come up with some less than average ways to bring that fun and excitement back for my cuties and combat the rainy weather blues. I was browsing through my Facebook memories, you know the daily reminders we get on exactly what we were doing on this very day over the past however many years we’ve had a Facebook account, (Eleven for me… disturbingly), and I came across one from exactly one year ago today. In this particular memory, my daughter was camping out in her teepee on a, you guessed it, Rainy Day. And just like that, I was inspired to begin my search again, for the perfect list of Rainy Day Activities, to help survive this next week of even more awful weather.

I have several options, from fun projects to cute little unusual toys you can find in my two most favorite places: Target, and Amazon (THANK YOU PRIME SHIPPING!!!) Each blue name link will take you directly to the product I am talking about.

So first up on the list:

  1. Teepee Tents

91HwifUKrcL._SL1500_This is the exact tent we ordered a year ago for our daughters to play in. Let me tell you, this was the BEST investment we have ever made. Neither of the girls ever got sick of it, and it folds up into one long skinny post we just put behind out couch so it’s always available at a moments notice. It was simple to assemble and both my husband (who is 6′ 2″) and I can comfortable sit in it with our girls. We usually fill it with blankets and the throw pillows from the room just to make it a little more fun. Spur of the moment blanket forts are awesome, but just don’t quite compare to your own TEEPEE.

The link takes you directly to Amazon, and below the item you’ll find tons of variations on this specific tent from sizes, to colors, to even different styled tents. You just can’t go wrong with this little fortress!

2. Pop-Open Tunnels

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My youngest was given a pop-open Caterpillar Tunnel, by my sister in law for her first birthday. These are the perfect rainy day activity because they open and close so easily and storage is super convenient with the little carrying case it comes with. Plus it’s CHEAP! This is the best inexpensive source of hours of entertainment! Don’t like the caterpillar? Try the super cute Ladybug Tunnel!

3. Wooden Paper Roll Dispenser

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There are TONS and TONS and TONS of art supplies on the market. As a former art teacher, it was super important to me that our girls be exposed to creativity and have access to supplies that support just that. For Christmas this past year, my Mother in Law and Father in Law got our oldest a beautiful White Easel by Kid Craft (and I’m sure every Pottery-Barn loving mother can relate when I say Kid Craft is the affordable alternative to the gorgeous Pottery Barn creative play ideas). While the White Easel is a high price item, there are several alternatives that are inexpensive for creative play. For example, this Melissa and Doug Wooden Paper Roll Dispenser. This is perfect for a kitchen table or play table with easy dispensing paper, kids can go from small wall art, to life size treasure maps of the living room, to human outlines of themselves to color and cut out. The possibilities are endless with roll paper.

4. Creative Play: Imagination Baking

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You have all seen my little assistants in action helping in the kitchen, especially whenever a dessert is involved, but those exciting baking moments transfer right into imaginative play. The BEST, BEST, BEST, investment we ever made for our girls, was the KidKraft Play Kitchen the girls received for Christmas a year and a half ago. It was a splurge, but the quality of KidKraft made it so worth it. My father-in-law put it best that year, “you can buy a cheap toy kitchen and it might last a year or two, or you can get one like this, and even an 8 year old will still want to play with it, some things are just worth it in the long run.” He reference my niece who was 8 at the time, and immediately goes to play with the girls at the kitchen whenever she comes over to our house. I even love playing with the girls with their kitchen. You can find kitchens from all price ranges. The specific Kitchen set we purchased can be found HERE. Melissa and Doug really support the imagination play by creating such high quality toys that withstand the brutality instilled upon them by toddlers. We have the Melissa and Doug Baking Set, Bake and Decorate Wooden Cupcake Set, and the Brew and Serve Wooden Coffee Maker Set. Personally, the little coffee maker set is my favorite…!

 

It's not always abouttrying to fix somethingthat's broken.

5. Creative Play: Household Accessories

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The research behind creative play is unreal. There are so many skills and developmental milestones in simply imagining real life tasks. Our girls LOVE playing with their matching Cabbage Patch baby dolls, carrying them around in car seats, pushing them in strollers, and even feeding them in sweet little high chairs. Our youngest’s current favorite task is “ironing” her blanket on this DARLING little Honestly Cute Ironing Board on Target’s website. They have an entire category for Pretend Play on their website. I mean, Honestly Cute even has a Dyson-look-alike VACUUM! Or try the Let’s Get Cleaning Broom and Duster set! My girls LOVE copying whatever chore or task I’m doing, so why not make it fun?! After all, I do get an awful lot of cleaning done on Rainy Days!

6. Creative Kitchen : Bake some Cupcakes!

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It’s no secret that I love to bake, or that my kids love helping me. On rainy and chilly days  like today I find myself drawn to the kitchen looking for an excuse to turn the stove on and shake the chill that never seems to leave. Plus, who doesn’t love sharing a goey cake batter spoon with their little loved ones? So here are some cute little inspiration photos to get you in the mood to make fun little cupcakes with your littles, or bigs, depending on what age you have running around your house on these chilly and rainy days.

Head over to my Pinterest Board: Cupcakes for more ideas!

7. Read some Cute New Books!

Whether your an e-reader, or a hard copy book guru, you can never have enough cute books for your kids! I always welcome new book suggestions for the 1-4 year old age. Another great way to get your hands on some new titles for your kiddos would be to find a family member or friend with similar aged children and do a “book exchange” trading your favorites for their favorites. It’s a win win! You find new books that have already been approved by people you care about, and you get to share the treasure you and your children love in return. Thanks to my sister, we love the Sandra Boynton books: Snuggle Puppy!, Hippos Go Berserk!, Pajama Time!, and Barnyard Dance!

LITTLE FREE LIBRARY
I’ve seen so many of the “Little Free Libraries” popping up all over the place. If you have never heard of this idea, a Little Free Library is a drop box located in a common area or a volunteering neighbor’s yard to donate books no longer used for others in a community to read. They are typically waterproof boxes that are unlocked and offer a spot to share, discuss, and build a stronger community simply by exchanging books.

8. Create a Day of Sunshine

Colors brighten our day, so why not try a cute spin off from sending a “Box of Sunshine” to having a Day of Sunshine to brighten those dreary days. Fill your day with as many sunny and brightly colored things from yellow table cloths, to colorful paper plates, yellow fruits and snacks, or yellow lemonade. Try to fill your whole date with everything bright and yellow! Make sparkly yellow suns, listen to “Yellow Submarine” just fill those dreary clouds outside with rays of fun and sun inside.  Check out my Day of Sunshine board on Pinterest to find more colorful inspirational ideas for a sun-filled day.

It's not always abouttrying to fix somethingthat's broken.

Hopefully this little list was able to inspire you to create some excitement for your kids in one way or another to weather the stormy days!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

Gluten Free Spring Cake

So one afternoon, while I was debating the final contestants for my blog’s Logo and writing Hello Logo, Welcome Home my oldest daughter was camped out beside me with her cute little Leap Frog Pink Laptop, plugging away at her work as well.

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As usual, I was multi-tasking and distracting myself on Pinterest when my oldest piped up saying, “Mommy! Wait! I want to make that cake right there!” Immediately pointing to a boxed cake idea utilizing food coloring and colorful layers on a bundt cake. After carefully inspecting the recipe, I said to her we would try it out.

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This was the original picture from Tablespoon my daughter saw online.

The recipe required a white boxed cake mix which in the world of gluten free, does not exist.

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Knowing that a yellow cake mix with food coloring would most likely look more orange than pink, I needed to come up with a white cake recipe. I continued to scour the internet for another hour or so until I had enough background information to develop a fairly simple gluten free white cake recipe.

So my daughters and I went to work, making a homemade Gluten Free White Cake recipe.

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I always start by measuring my dry ingredients and combining them first in a lovely spouted bowl. This cake was made with Pamela’s Artisan Blend Flour which is simple, and cup for cup convertible to non gluten free recipes.

Since this recipe has melted butter, I do this next so it has a chance to briefly cool. I’m pretty sure I’m going to experiment with melted butter in boxed mixes, because this cake turned out SO. GREAT!

Next, I place my mixer assistants on the counter and start beating the eggs and sugar.

After everyone is in place, I add in the butter, buttermilk, vanilla, and almond extract. Once everything is mixed really well, begin adding in the flour one cup at a time, and stop as soon as the cake mixture is just combined.

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This is my favorite cake batter to lick. And both of my girls would agree with me on this. (yes… my children lick the beaters when I bake. So do I, and we are all just fine…)

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As I was watching the cake lighten up in color with every scoop of Pamela’s Artisan Blend Flour, I was getting pretty excited! It was actually going to be a WHITE CAKE. But then we would be adding color to it, meaning that a true white cake really needed to be added to our future to-bake list.
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Look how delicious, fluffy and light this cake batter ended up! I hated to even color it! But needless to say, my daughter was anxiously waiting to add the color. So we divided the batter evenly among 3 bowls.

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I then began to color each section of batter to match the original cake inspiration, following through with a yellow, purple, and of course, pink portion.

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After finishing this cake, looking back, I would definitely pursue a deeper shade of purple cake, because while it was visible in the final product it would have been a little cooler looking with a deeper shade.

Now comes the fun part: handing three bowls of batter to a 3 year old and letting her go to town layering the colors in the pan. She loved this part; however, decided part way through it would have been better to just make a pink cake. Of course.

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Look at her, she’s like a little professional! The final cake looked something like this prior to baking:

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How pretty and fun is this cake? And once we finished baking it, about 40 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees, it looked even prettier!

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Now, here is where I went wrong. I did not let my cake cool long enough before attempting to remove it from the pan. So my cake cracked, but evenly so I was able to piece it right back together.

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You almost can’t even see the crack! Once the cake has COMPLETELY cooled, divide up your icing into 3 separate bowls.

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Again, you could make this from scratch, but when a classic white icing is already gluten free, and you plan to drizzle it, why not just use it from the can? It’s easily thinned by adding some milk to get the glazing effect you are looking for.

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I added my colors and found the shades I was looking for before attempting to thin the icing and it worked out really well this way.

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Once your icing is slightly runny, your daughter is wired on sugar, and the cake is cooled, let her go to town flinging icing on to a cake. It might be slightly messy, but she had so much fun decorating this cake!

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The other thing I noticed was the original did not use a ton of icing. In our household, it’s a crime to under-ice a cake. Needless to say, this cake was drenched in frosting, and every bit of the final product was delicious!

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Just one handful of colored sugar sprinkles and we were finished!

The colors swirled pretty well, all things considered, but I think layering the colors in to the pan one at a time and then using a knife to swirl them would work out the best to achieve the true swirl cake effect.

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Well there you have it! One fairly simple Gluten Free White Cake Recipe, and another simple modification to make my daughter’s Gluten Free Spring Cake.

Cheers!

  • Whitney

 

Gluten Free White Cake

  • Servings: 12 servings
  • Print

A perfectly white and moist cake, with a delicious flavor that will fool even the keenest of taste buds.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups Pamela’s Artisan Blend Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Directions

  1. Set the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients in a separate bowl and set aside.
  2. Melt butter and let cool slightly.
  3. In a stand mixer beat the eggs and sugar together. Add in the butter, buttermilk, vanilla and almond extract. Continue to mix at medium speed until combined.
  4. Add in the dry mixture one cup at a time until ingredients are just combined. Do not over mix.
  5. Pour into 2 greased  8 or 9 inch baking pans and bake 30-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. (For a bundt cake, bake for 35-40 minutes)
  6. Let the cakes cool at least 30 minutes before removing from the pan and transferring to a wire rack to continue to cool completely.

Gluten Free Colorful Spring Cake

  • Servings: 12 servings
  • Print

A fun twist on a classic gluten free white cake that is sure to wow a crowd or add a cheerful touch to a spring gathering.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups Pamela’s Artisan Blend Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 can white icing
  • 3-6 Tablespoons milk

Directions

  1. Set the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients in a separate bowl and set aside.
  2. Melt butter and let cool slightly.
  3. In a stand mixer beat the eggs and sugar together. Add in the butter, buttermilk, vanilla and almond extract. Continue to mix at medium speed until combined.
  4. Add in the dry mixture one cup at a time until ingredients are just combined. Do not over mix.
  5. Separate cake mixture into three even portions. Add food coloring to each to make a yellow, pink (use red) and purple (use red and slightly more blue) colored batter.
  6. Rotating between colors, pour layers of each color into a greased bundt pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
  7. Let the cake cool at least 30 minutes before removing from the pan and transferring to a wire rack to continue to cool completely.
  8. Using canned icing separate into 3 even portions, repeating the same food coloring portions as the cake batter. Thin each bowl out with 1-2 tablespoons of milk, until a glaze consistency has been achieved.
  9. Drizzle icing over cake alternating colors. Let the icing set completely before serving.

 

 

The BEST Gluten Free (And Dairy Free) Sugar Cookie

Well this is it. THE. MOTHER. OF. ALL. MOTHER. The official: Gluten Free Sugar Cookie recipe. I’ve been speaking about my Mother-in-law’s sugar cookies for months now. She makes, no joke, the softest and by far the most delicious, sugar cookie recipe I’ve ever tasted. The recipe is very easy to make as well; however, I am not giving you her recipe.


I am giving you my modified, and gluten-free specific recipe. This recipe can be made dairy free by substituting the buttermilk with an “acidic milk substitute.” See the conversion graphic below from buzzle.com. (Thank you Pinterest!) I have made these cookies using regular milk and adding vinegar to it, whenever I get home and realize I forgot to purchase buttermilk. It doesn’t really affect the end product.

6047d6a047601fe9b277c22c14d75e5eThis is the one hot ticket item that every Bargerstock grandchild looks for at every holiday, from Christmas, to Easter, birthdays and even one time my mother-in-law and I decorated 4th of July cookies together (lord help me that she doesn’t still have pictures of those cookies…!)  They were a centerpiece at each one of our weddings, bridal showers, baby showers, and I have carried on her tradition of sugar cookies for each of my children’s birthday parties. She even attempted gluten free cookies once for me. Not being used to gluten free baking, I’m pretty sure she hated it. Having begun to fine tune the craft of gluten free baking I am beginning to find the “fixes” for the original recipe to create the updated Gluten Free version of her cookies.

The one specific detail that my mother-in-law always includes in her cookies is the very era-specific “Star-tipped” decorating that takes you right back to 90’s childhood when it was customary to buy old school style sheet cakes covered in star-tipped icing. More recently this has been replaced with a slightly more intricate, and less carpal-tunnel-causing method of cake and cookie decorating that look more like works of art than food.

I have created this cookies in a variety of ways, from the original star tipped style, to the flooded royal icing, and even to a combination of both, layering icing on top of hardened icing.

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Here you can see the classic start tipped icing from my post, Winter Birthday Blues Brightened, where we held a “Snow Bunny” themed birthday party for our oldest when she turned two.

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These cookies were my first attempt at “flooding” and layering of icing, (pardon the incredibly crooked lines… it was my first attempt!) which didn’t turn out too bad, the pearlescent dust really helped to cover up some of my unsteady hand errors. I made these for my youngest daughter’s Bohemian 1st Birthday. I also really enjoyed the “toothpick” effect of pulling the icing in the feathers. I will post a follow up with suggested decorating do’s and don’ts that I have learned through trial and error.

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These were from my second attempt at “flooding” icing. My niece was turning two last fall, and I had recently finish making the teepee and feather cookies, and really started to get obsessed with decorating. Plus, I found the jackpot royal icing recipe, which I will also share with you. This round I was able to get a better handle on lining and flooding.

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These are from the same round of cookie baking. The chef and her family were Disney bound in the near future, so in my cookie-obsessed mind, I decided I should make some Disney themed cookies to send in a care package along with each of their birthday gifts. I also sent Cinderella’s Castle; however, they were incredibly ugly so I didn’t even bother to photograph them.

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How can you not love a  flamingo tucked into a 3? Best accidental design ever! (I secretly forgot to purchase a flamingo cookie cutter… whoopsies!) fullsizerender-2.jpg

This last series of cookies is from my oldest daughter’s most recent birthday. We had a Flock on Over and Let’s Flamingle theme.

I had WAY too much fun with this theme and returned back to the classic star tipped icing style. It just seemed to fit so well with the pineapples scattered throughout the theme.

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And of course, the subject of today’s post: Spring themed sugar cookies.

So you can see, my Mother-in-law’s cookies will forever hold a precious place in our home, whether it’s the original recipe she follows or one modified to meet my family’s needs, these cookies are a tradition that WILL be passed on to my daughters.

To begin the recipe you will need to crazy kids with jammies having a bad hair day:

Just kidding, in a separate bowl combine your Pamela’s Artisan Blend flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Set your oven to 350 degrees.

In your stand mixer, cream your Crisco (the magic ingredient to this entire recipe) eggs and sugar. I beat this on high speed until it’s nice and fluffy.

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Next, add your vanilla, almond extract, and then add in your buttermilk, (or dairy-free substitute following the conversion table).

6047d6a047601fe9b277c22c14d75e5eIt’s very important not to panic when your mixture starts to look like it’s curdled on you. It tends to get a little gross looking at this point, but I promise you, it will turn out amazing in the end.

The only way I can guarantee that your recipe will turn out with the quality consistency of a soft sturdy sugar cookie is if you follow this recipe exactly and use Pamela’s Artisan Blend Flour. It is a perfect CUP FOR CUP replacement whenever following a recipe you may have had prior to going gluten free. For this recipe you will need 4 1/4 cups of flour (previously mixed with your baking soda, baking powder, and salt)

Begin by adding the flour in 1/2 cup increments at a time, stirring on medium-low speed. Continue to stir and add flour until just combined.

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Once your flour is mixed, turn off your stand mixer and give it one last good mix with a wide spatula, being sure to scrape the sides well and incorporate all the flour. The batter will be fairly soft. Place the entire mixing bowl in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow the flour to stiffen up just slightly.

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Once your batter has chilled, it will still have a light, almost velvety feel to it. Time for the fun! By this point in baking, my youngest daughter has typically headed to bed for a morning nap, leaving my oldest and I to get down to business rolling and cutting out cookies.

I have to pause for a minute, because when we baked these cookies a month or so ago, it almost took my breath away looking through the photographs afterwards at how grown up she is becoming. She is such a kind child and loves to help, particularly in the kitchen that I can’t help almost tearing up writing about our afternoon of baking cookies together.

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Before baking, she and I have a routine. First, we wipe down the entire kitchen table, because lets face it, crust kids will be crusty kids… Next, we set up our Stackable Cooling Racks (enter Pampered Chef sales pitch), get out our pre-cut baking sheets, (GENIOUS invention), set out the container of flour, and cookie sheets.

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Finally, choose our cookie cutters. My daughter loves picking out the cookie cutters, although I need to find a better organizational system for storing baking supplies in the near future.

Our set up looks something like this:

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When preparing to roll your cookies, it’s important to remember some specific gluten free practices:

  • Only bake gluten free
  • If you are baking with regular flour wait until AFTER you have finished AND stored the gluten free product
  • Keep separate rolling pins for use with Gluten Free flours ONLY.

Flour your surface with a nice even layer, and flour your assistance surface to match.

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I like to work in small portions and I only re-roll my dough one time. If you work this dough too much, it becomes stiff and hard, losing the soft, fresh-baked feel these cookies should have. Trust me, I have made this mistake before. (Thanksgiving 2016 – ask any of my in-laws)

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Pat the top of your dough down with a little additional flour and begin to work it gently with the rolling pin.

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Melissa and Doug have a darling baking set that actually works for your little assistants. We need to get a second rolling pin soon for my littlest assistant.

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I like to leave my dough about 1/4 of an inch thick when I’ve finished rolling. When you begin to use cookie cutters, I strongly recommend keeping a metal spatula nearby to transfer cookies smoothly to the prepared baking sheets.

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Keeping in mind that you only want to re-roll your dough one time, be efficient in placing your cookie cutters in order to get as many cookies as possible from the dough.

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One re-roll of the dough will look something like this. Do not go beyond this or your cookies will be hard and crumbly.

Yes, even at 3 years old she pretty much has mastered the craft of baking. I could spend every day doing things like this with her.

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Once your cookie sheets are prepare, place in the oven for 10 – 13 minutes. I specifically chose this arrangement to demonstrate the variation in time. For the smaller cookies start with 10 minutes, and check them. Larger cookies like the butterfly, larger shapes and my daughter’s ridiculously thick “B” would all require a minimum of 12 minutes to bake.

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Once your cookies have finished they should look something like this. Set, but not browned, and puffed, but not sinking anywhere.

Transfer ALL cookies to a cooling rack about a minute after being removed from the oven.

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In the bottom right corner of the cookie picture above, notice how cracked and split those cookies are. These are ones that my daughter rolled, cut, re-rolled, cut again, about 3 times total before deciding they were ready. I included them to emphasize why you only want to re-roll your dough one time with this gluten free product.

If you are only baking on one cookie sheet at a time, consider placing your cookie dough back into the fridge between sheets. We typically have 4 baking sheets going at once, so I do not worry about keeping the dough chilled.

When I do re-use a cookie sheet, I don’t like to be wasteful of my baking sheets, so I place a second round of cookies onto the same pre-cute parchment paper I used on the first round.

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Once your cookies have completely cooled, your cooling racks make excellent “out of reach” resting zones for your cookies as you complete decorations on them.

My Mother-in-law’s cookies use canned classic white icing. And it’s amazing. Don’t judge the use of canned icing until you try it. Trust me, you can make very similar tasting icing from scratch, and I will provide you with some of my favorite homemade recipes for cookie decorating, but why waste the time? Unless you love the Royal Icing, then hold tight as I will be giving you the BEST ROYAL ICING recipe in the very near future.

A little canned icing, food coloring and some star tipping, and you too can celebrate in our family’s tradition of sugar cookie baking! I hope this recipe allows you the family project time my girls and I enjoy while baking together.

Cheers! and Happy Spring!

  • Whitney

 

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The BEST Gluten Free (And Dairy Free) Sugar Cookies

  • Servings: 6 dozen cookies
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Cup Crisco
  • 1 Cup Buttermilk (or Acidic Dairy Substitute)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 1/4 Cups Pamela’s Artisan Blend Flour (plus additional for rolling)

Directions

  1. Set oven temperature to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the eggs, sugar, and crisco until creamy and slightly fluffy.
  3. Add in vanilla, almond extract, and buttermilk stirring until just combined.
  4. Begin to add flour in 1/2 cup increments until all dry mixture is just combined. Remove bowl from mixer, scarping sides with a large spatula to ensure all ingredients combined well.
  5. Refrigerate mixture for 30 minutes until firm.
  6. Flour surface and roll 1/4 of the dough at a time until 1/4 of an inch thick. Using cookie cutters, place cookies on prepared baking sheets.
  7. Only re-roll dough one time. Repeat with remaining 3/4 of dough mixture.
  8. Bake cookie sheets in oven at 350 degrees for 10 – 13 minutes.

Fun Breakfast | Simple Gluten Free Pancakes

 

I will never forget the trip to my sister’s when her youngest daughter was officially in charge of breakfast. She was making gluten free pancakes. In our house, we only worry about gluten free, but with my niece she is both dairy and gluten free. Using the Bisquick Gluten Free mix, which I cannot stress enough what an AMAZING mix this is, she substitutes almond milk in to replace the milk added. The mixture is dairy free (not soy free, but dairy free) and even with this additional substitution the pancakes taste just like the Bisquick pancakes I grew up with.

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Photo Credit: General Mills Website

My niece has been one of those unbelievably creative and one of a kind kids as long as I can remember. She is sweet, crazy intelligent, and every now and then reminds me so much of myself at her age minus all the access to . It’s fun to see her interacting with her sister, because I think her older sister is much like her mother, my older sister. I wonder if we had grown up closer together in age, if we would have been like those two.

Returning back to my niece’s clever pancakes, after she mixed the batter up, she tinted the pancakes with food coloring to match my oldest daughter’s request for pink. (brilliant idea for any toddler). But the next thing she did blew me out of the water on creative breakfasts. Using a decorating bottle, she poured the mixture into the bottle and used the bottle to create shapes and designs in my daughter’s pancakes. INGENIOUS!

Since this day, I have been following suit making pancakes like my niece inspired me, starting first, of course, with the Bisquick mixture, and following suit with food coloring and a decorator bottle.

And so when my girls requested “Breakfast for Dinner!!!” the other night, I began with this simple and very easy method for making pancakes! To start, I made one batch beginning with:

* 1 cup of Gluten Free Bisquick Mix
* 1 cup of Milk (I used 2 percent but Almond Milk is an excellent substitute)
* 2 Tablespoons of Oil (I used Canola)
* 1 egg

I then added 2-3 drops of red food coloring to achieve the perfect shade of pink.

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Once again, this awesome bowl from Pampered Chef comes to the rescue with the pour spout, but I have found a close substitute HERE if you’re in the market for a great mixing bowl. Perhaps it would be a good Mother’s Day Gift Idea for the baker in your life or to just treat yourself!

Begin by spraying your pan with a non stick spray or use butter. (We use Pam.) And heat the pan or griddle, no one has purchase a griddle in my house… I’m hoping I can get an add-in griddle when we replace our stove… someday soon… hopefully… maybe… probably not.

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Next, decide which shape you want to create. We typically stick to the basics: hearts, Minnie Mouse bows, Mickey Heads, and flowers. Draw the outline of your shape in the pan.

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Fill in your shape using a side to side motion.

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How stinking cute it this?! If you can master the art of the outline and fill, who would ever need a “Pancake Mold” ever again?

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Here is another cute little (and incredibly lopsided) shape. It’s SO EASY and is such a fun surprise for any child! My niece would get a little fancier and place the letter “B” in the pan, wait a few seconds and then fill in around it, the B looked like it was stamped into the heart-shaped pancake. You could have a field day making these cute little pancakes for your own little cuties.

Once your pancake has begun to set and the edges begin to puff a little, flip your design over and let your pancake finish just a few more seconds on the other side.

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If you’re a real perfectionist you could trim these up with a butter knife after removing from the pan.

 

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And just like that, you have a simple, but very pretty breakfast for a loved one, perhaps a special breakfast in bed treat? Or a sweet little cutie who is beginning to learn shapes and colors. Whoever you are preparing these for is sure to be pleased with this fun little twist on breakfast!

My parents recently purchased these DARLING little Easter plates and bowls for the girls. We decided a fun meal like “Breakfast for Dinner!” would be an excellent time to try out the new tools.

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The girls love having compartments to eat different foods  from and both girls have always responded well to several finger food options. Each of the girls was given a heart shaped pancake, along with their two favorite fruits of the week: (I use this term lightly because this really does change weekly) Apples and Strawberries. They also love sausage so it must be part of a “breakfast for dinner” kind of night!

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A few years back, I stumbled across these interactive plates on Uncommon Goods and I could not resist buying them as Christmas Gifts! Here is a link with my referral to find these Construction Plates and Utensils on Amazon.

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I can still remember my sister in law sending me a picture of him using the plate. I think at the time she was having trouble keeping him at the table to eat. This extra little bit of entertainment went a long way for him.

While my nephew loved this plate, I had to find a match for his sister, which lead me to this sweet little Garden Fairy Plate Set and Utensils so she could join in the fun as well!

Garden Plate How stinking cute is this little set?! My daughter has a match, and the “pusher tool” really helped when she was initially learning how to use the utensils. I would definitely recommend this set to any children from toddlers to elementary age because of how fun the tools are! Perhaps it’s my weird Obsessive Compulsiveness that I have passed on to my children, but I totally get why they feel the need to organize their food before eating it. Frankly, I wish I had a grown up set of these plates.

Hopefully this post inspires so creativity for your Sunday Morning breakfasts this week.

Cheers!

  • Whitney

 

How To | Make Gluten Free Box Cakes Taste like Bakery Style Cakes

Everyone loves a beautiful cake. If you have celiac disease or any type of gluten intolerance, going to a birthday party or any special occasion event involving a gorgeous cake is torture. We all know Bakery style cakes are so much richer, denser, and frankly, amazing. But if you are one of the select few who have found that bakery style cake that is Gluten Free you know what I mean when I say it’s like winning the lottery.

I have a friend, two friends really, who are amazing cake bakers. They have been tackling the gluten free cake baking field for me for several years now. This dynamic cake duo can make any gorgeous idea you throw at them. If you can find it on Pinterest, they will make it equal in grandeur, perhaps even a little better! Once, I gave them an invitation to my daughter’s baptism and they replicated the cake to match the design of the invitation! They have also mastered the art of gluten free baking.

If you follow any of my social media feeds, Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, (yes I have twitter too; however, I haven’t tackled that beast yet…) you will see all too often my daughters and I in the kitchen baking cookies, cakes, cupcakes, you name it! We love to bake! But the reality of making a cake from scratch on every baking whim I have, with two toddlers, is so unrealistic. So today I present you with a couple simple hacks to improve your typical gluten free boxed cake mixes to give them a rich bakery taste.

My cake mix of preference is Pillsbury; however, I have to credit Betty Crocker for breaching the name brand gluten free products way before anyone else in the market. My particular reason for choosing Pillsbury is the equivalent size factor. Betty Crocker cakes are great tasting, but do not come out to standard boxed cake sizes.

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I start out with one boxed cake mix and one small box of jell-o brand pudding mix. I typically use either the white chocolate or vanilla with a fun-fetti flavored cake. Cheesecake is also a good flavor to add.

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Next, add in 3 eggs, 1/2 cup of oil and 1 1/4 cup water. Using a stand mixer mix until well combined. The mixture will be thicker than a standard cake.

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The girls typically feel the mixer will not work if they do not hold on to it while blending. I think they also believe it gets them closer to paddle licking once it’s finished.

Be sure to stop mixing once or twice and really scrape down the sides well to ensure all of the mix is incorporated. Your finished mixture should look something like this:

 

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Next you will want to prepare your cupcake tins. If it was up to the girls, every single cupcake would have a hot pink wrapper. Since we were preparing ones for a green event, we came to a mutual agreement with silver wrappers and green icing.

The box says you can get 24 half filled cupcakes; I disagree. I always place 24 cups but never get more than 20 cupcakes from one batch. I like my cupcakes to puff a little  above the wrapper, so I fill my cupcakes around 2/3 full.

This particular time I ended up with 20 cupcakes and just enough batter on the paddle to split between two cute and very anxious little girls.

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I then bake the cupcakes at 350 degrees for 20 minutes removing from the oven to cool slightly, and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

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There is nothing I am more disappointed in than an over-baked cupcake. They should never be brown around the edges. Dry cupcakes are gross. The pudding mix helps to add moisture and density to the cupcakes giving a slightly bakery feel, and I love t!

You can also follow these instruction with the gluten free Pillsbury Devils Food cake mix combining with a chocolate pudding mix.

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I have not tried it yet, but I think a chocolate strawberry cake would be amazing if you added Strawberry Cream Pudding into the chocolate cake mix.

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Always remember to transfer the cupcakes to a cooling rack just moments after removing form the oven to allow them to coo completely before icing.

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My favorite recipes to make with these cupcakes include a White Chocolate Buttercream I came up with, Strawberry Buttercream, and of course my ultimate favorite, Auntie M.’s Gob Icing.

If you have an apple corer like The Pampered Chef’s The Corer it is a great tool to hollow out the center of a cupcake just slightly to make room for an additional filling or just a secret hiding spot for more icing! Check out my friend Kathy’s page and splurge on these amazing stackable cooling racks that I couldn’t live without! My first home-show business was The Pampered Chef and let me tell you, that is an amazing little business to get into. Not only did I make money while finishing my graduate degree, but I completely stocked our kitchen when my husband and I were just starting out. Check in with her if you think it might be something you’d be interested in!

Keep checking back as you will find all three of my most favorite icing recipes including the Best White Chocolate Buttercream, in the very near future! Have a great week!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

Recipe Round Up | Cadbury Season!

 

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With St. Patrick’s Day freshly in the rear view mirror, it is only appropriate to move ahead to the upcoming holiday, Easter. I was walking through the isles at the grocery store a few weeks ago after proctoring the SAT exam, and came across my Mom’s favorite Easter treat: Cadbury Minis. A few years ago, I take full credit for successfully hooking my Mother-in-law on to theses little bad boys. So this post is completely for these two and all people who love Cadbury Minis.

Last Easter I was browsing Pinterest for ideas to use during our pre-Easter egg coloring family event I host each year. I randomly stumbled upon a recipe incorporating in Cadbury Minis leading me to a plethora of recipes! I was so shocked  and thrilled that I now have a Pinterest board dedicated to these recipes just for fun: Cadbury Mini-speration with additional recipes and ideas.

So here it is: 15 cute Cadbury Recipes to spark a little Spring Fever in us all.

  1. Bunny Chow

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I mean, like the name isn’t enough to sell you?? I just love this idea! And what a simple twist!

2. Mini Eggs Cheesecake Dip

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If you are looking for a simple recipe to add to any potluck or family gathering, this one is sure to please a crowd! Everyone loves the dessert styled dips. And Cheesecake? Well that just seals the deal!

3. Easter egg Pretzel Chocolate Swirl Bark

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I love bark recipes, but really need to work on my chocolate swirl patterns. Bark recipes make the best last minute gift ideas. Salty and Sweet, covers all bases and the festive colors are so pretty!

4. Coconut Macaroon Nests

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These delicate little treats are almost too cute to eat! Being a sweets lover, I couldn’t resist these and already have them scheduled mentally for Easter dinner at my parents!

5. Easter Nest Sugar Cookies

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Now, I can guarantee you I will see sugar cookies that look exactly like this at my mother-in-laws this year! Why? Because her sugar cookies are delicious, she decorates in this star tipped style, and she loves Cadbury Eggs! And who wouldn’t when you could make these sweet little nests with just a couple quick tweaks to convert it to a gluten free recipe?

Everyone in the family looks forward to her sugar cookies. She even made me gluten free ones one time, for my baby shower. They were sweet little pink and yellow star-tipped owls. I’m pretty sure she hated working with the gluten free flour and would agree there is a learning curve to get the feel of it, but trust me when I say, it’s an easy conversion!

 

6. White Chocolate Easter Egg Cupcakes

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I love these cupcakes! They are so sweet and light. But I think the best part is the egg carton presentation! It’s so cute! These are on my to-do list for a school party coming up in a few weeks!

7. Cadbury Chocolate Thumbprints

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I. LOVE. THUMBPRINTS. They are so simple and delicious! I also love six sisters’ stuff blog, and have lost count of the recipes I use from these lovely ladies!

8. Mini Egg Fudge

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Fudge should be a necessary staple at all holiday events. This one in particular makes me think of when I was young and my Mom and Aunts would go to Smicksburg, a local Amish village and buy all kinds of crazy fudge the day after Thanksgiving. We kids would wait for them to get home and dive into the pounds of fudge we knew would be hidden in those bags. I love when new recipes arouse a sense of nostalgia when viewed for the first time. It makes a new taste so personal right from the start.

9. Cadbury Mini Egg Blondies

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I feel safe to assume I will see this recipe in my Mom’s kitchen at some point in the next 4 weeks until the holiday. Blondies? YES PLEASE.

10. Easter Egg Layer Cake

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My next big project I want to tackle and master is cake decorating. I made a miserable attempt at my oldest daughter’s birthday and really need to recover my reputation with a pretty cake. Perhaps this simple recipe might help!

11. Peanut Butter Cadbury Cookies

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Chocolate-Peanut Butter, enough said!!

12. Cadbury Mini Egg Candy Bark

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These are so cute! I know I have already mentioned bark, but this one is so light and sweet looking, how could you NOT want to try and make it? I might have to improve my melting skills and bring this pretty little treat to life!

13. Cadbury Brownies

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Brownies are like a blank canvas, you can add anything to them to create unique and flavorful treats! And with the creation of some of the most delicious boxed gluten-free brownie mixes out there like Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Pamela’s, and my sister’s personal favorite: King Arthur

14. Milkshake Recipe

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Alright, this recipe came from The Food Network so of course it’s beautiful, b I love the idea of a pretty milk shake! We just gave our youngest her first milkshake recently, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, she loved it!

15. Chocolate and Orange Mini Egg Cheesecake

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This particular recipe I posted with my Mom in mind. I always think of her when I hear the Orange and Chocolate combination thrown around. It’s unusual but works so well!

So there you have it! Does this post make you want to run out and grab the first bag of shiny plastic grass and get your spring vibes on?? I’m pretty sure I’ll be binging in the Easter sections this upcoming weekend.

Happy Spring everyone!

Cheers!

  • Whitney